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'10 most wanted' plants inspected for clues to climate change
Date:4/20/2010

BOULDER--Students, gardeners, retirees, and other volunteers who are taking part in a nationwide initiative, Project BudBurst, are finding hints that certain plants are blooming unusually early, perhaps as a result of climate change. These citizen scientists are recording the timing of flowers and foliage, amassing thousands of observations from across the nation to give researchers a detailed picture of our changing climate.

The project, started as a pilot program in 2007, now features a list of the "Ten Most Wanted" species--flowers and trees such as the common lilac, red maple, and Virginia bluebell. These widely distributed plants can provide important early signs of the impact of warming temperatures on the environment, according to the scientists who designed the project.

"Project BudBurst empowers people living anywhere in the country to make a contribution that will lead to better understanding of our environment," says Project director Sandra Henderson of UCAR's Office of Education and Outreach. "This is needed data to help scientists who are studying the impacts of climate change."

Project BudBurst, operated by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and Chicago Botanic Garden, partners with the USA National Phenology Network and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Funding comes from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, NEON, NASA, and National Geographic Education Foundation. BudBurst is also supported by the National Science Foundation.

In Chicago, volunteers who have observed 15 kinds of plants since 2007 have found that 7 of them are flowering earlier now than at any time in more than 50 years of observations by botanists. While these and other observations can reveal possible impacts of climate change on local yards and gardens, scientists need many more years of data to distinguish the effects of long-term trends in climate from na
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Contact: David Hosansky
hosansky@ucar.edu
303-497-8611
National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
Source:Eurekalert

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